Home Away From Home, Virginia

Woodstock, Luray Caverns and More!

What a fun filled day and it lasted a lot longer than we anticipated. Our first adventure was to locate Woodstock Fire Tower. That proved to be a bit more difficult than we had thought. I downloaded the directions and it told us to turn east on a highway that only went north and south. After riding though the town of Woodstock a bit we finally stopped and asked and were told to turn by the old courthouse which we did. In reading the reviews on Trip Advisor I knew there were two entrances and the writer suggested taking the one with fewer curves and turns. Wouldn’t you know that we took the one going up that was winding, paved, graveled and hairpin curves? Jerry finally saw a sign denoting the tower so we parked and began a short walk towards the tower.

That's a high tower!
That’s a high tower!
When we arrived at the tower there were three people who had just come down and they encouraged us to go on up because the view was incredible. I looked at the metal tower, put my big girl panties on and up I went. In fact going up was easier than coming down! The climb was well worth it indeed though as we could see the seven bends of the Shenandoah Valley. As we were climbing down it began to sprinkle so we hastened on to the car.
This made the climb worth it!
This made the climb worth it!

Instead of going back the way we had come we ventured on only to discover that that was where we should have come in in the first place. It was just a regular road, no “oh my gosh I hope we don’t go over” road!

The Reflecting Pool
The Reflecting Pool

We decided to go on back to the RV for lunch and then go out for dinner as there was a restaurant in Edinburg that we wanted to try that evening. After lunch we headed to Luray to visit the Luray Caverns. Jerry and I have been to a number of caverns. In fact a few months ago Jerry said we had been to enough caves and caverns and to not plan anymore so I was hesitant to mention Luray Caverns but he had mentioned it so off we went. What a treat! The caverns are spectacular, by far the most impressive we have seen. In fact one lady on the tour said they were far better than Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico! I don’t know about that but they were pretty impressive. One of the most stunning things was a large pool of reflecting water. Though the water was only inches deep it appeared to be very deep. The magic of it was that it reflected all of the stalactites making it look like the ground was covered in stalagmites. It was incredibly beautiful and I could have stayed there for quite some time gazing at it.
Magnificent
Magnificent

Another interesting point was the sound of an organ being played. Strikers are attached at various points and then are gently tapped to make the different notes in the song. It took three years to build the organ and only a handful of people can play it. The song being played was “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”. Not a sound could be heard as the music sounded through the cavern.

When we left the caverns we went into the historic car museum. It is full of very old beautifully restored cars some dating from the 1800’s. A real treat for car lovers.

Next on our agenda was a ride along the Skyline Parkway however we were running low on gas. Along the highway we were on you could buy fruits, quilts, apple cider and any number of things but alas, no gas. We ended up driving 20 miles to find gas, then 20 miles back to the parkway entrance.

As we arrived at the gate we realized that there was a $20 charge per car and since it was so late we elected not to go but the ranger asked if by any chance we had the America the Beautiful pass and indeed we do so there was no charge.

No caption necessary
No caption necessary
We decided to go on and she directed us to the southern route which had more lookouts. We saw some incredibly beautiful sites, things that no camera we own could do justice to. The sun streaming through the clouds was absolutely gorgeous. At that lookout we could see numerous photographers setting up equipment in order to catch that shot. Unfortunately it was very windy and pretty cold so we didn’t stay very long. We continued on the parkway occasionally stopping at some of the lookouts but finally gave up because it was so windy and cold. At one lookout I saw a couple sitting on the brick wall wrapped in a blanket. That’s dedication!

Can you see his small antlers?
Can you see his small antlers?
As we headed out we saw two deer standing on each side of the road. I was scrambling to get my phone to take the picture and the deer waited patiently but dang it, it too me too long. She finally scampered off. The untagged young buck on the other side of the road crossed in front of us and posed for his picture before following the tagged doe. We saw three more deer as we rode out.

We finally got to the end of the parkway and began the rather long journey back to Edinburg, 55 miles.. Pretty sure our restaurant preference would be closed so perhaps we should instead head to Swover Creek Farms, a brewery, tap room and restaurant – I hope!

Oh well, eating out was not to be. We went back by the campground and then decided to go Swover Creek. Although it was less than 10 miles it was going to take nearly 20 minutes to get there. Wonder where it was. After leaving the two lane road, going over a single lane bridge though the dark country and then down another dark lane we finally arrived and realized that it was mainly a tap room and the store and the restaurant did not appear to be opened. Since neither of us drink beer we turned around, went back to the RV and had somewhat of a meal there.

It was a long but good day and a good way to end our Virginia trip. There is just so much to see here and we know we have just tapped the very edge of all of the beauty. Maybe another trip!

We didn’t leave Friday until 10:30 but had a very uneventful easy trip to Raleigh stopping only once at a rest stop for lunch. We stayed at the NC State Fairgrounds but up on the hill this time. The horse section was very quiet and dark and generally most of the State fans stay up top. Wi-Fi was almost not operable, in fact I could never get enough signal to even get the booster up. Naturally they have no cable but the Dish worked fine and Jerry was able to watch football!

We went to the game on Saturday and watched State lose to Boston College. Afterward we came back to the coach and sat outside. While the guys watched football on the outside TV (the first time we’ve really used it) the girls chatted. We ate our leftovers from tailgating and called it a night.

Sunday morning we got up and began washing linens and I cleaned the inside while Jerry washed the outside. Boy, did it need it. Sadly I guess it’s going back to the warehouse until after Christmas since we have no more trips planned in the near future. 😦

We finally got a fall picture - kind of.
We finally got a fall picture – kind of.
Home Away From Home, Virginia

Edinburg, Virginia

I just couldn’t go to sleep last night for some reason. Tuesday night is the only night I watch TV and I guess I stayed up too late and missed my sleepy time but when I did go to sleep I had a good night’s rest. Jerry quietly got up this morning and let me sleep in until almost 8:00. Love sleeping in a cold room. I heard him turn on the heat in the front so I knew when I got up and headed toward the den it’d be nice and warm and it was.

We took our time doing break down and it was 10:30 before we left. Interestingly enough our two GPS’s had very divergent routes varying in about 50 miles. I “thought” Jerry’s which is shorter was mainly two lane roads and I was right. We did get to ride through the absolutely lovely back roads of Virginia though. There are miles and miles of fences, some painted white (can’t imagine) and some plain. The leaves weren’t as vivid as they have been but were still pretty although a little more sparse. Horse farms abound along with cattle grazing in the pastures. Despite the loveliness of the drive I sometimes had to just look down as we passed through narrow passages and overhead bridges.

We arrived at Creekside RV Park about 1:00. I had read on RV Park Reviews that we shouldn’t follow the GPS directions to the campground and boy was that right! I called the campground and he told me what exit to take and then to just follow the campground signs. That would have been perfect except when we entered Edinburg and had to make either a left or right turn there was no sign so of course we turned left. We rode down the main street, saw the street that the GPS said to turn on and wisely said no way. It was very narrow and unbeknownst to us a sharp left angle turn and then a right turn and then a narrow bridge. I really think we would have gotten stuck.

The campground is small and our site backed up to a little creek full of quacking ducks. The guy a couple of sites down was feeding them throwing feed in the creek and then entrancing them to come up on the bank by throwing more food. Wow!

Edinburg Mill
Edinburg Mill
After we got set up and had some lunch we rode into Edinburg and went to the Edinburg Mill. It is only one of a few pre-Civil War mills still standing. The Shenandoah Valley was the thoroughfare for both of the armies and whomever controlled the valley would control the war. Upon orders the Yankees began what it now known as The Burning. They burned everything, homes, barns, livestock, fields, crops, anything that would provide sustenance. In one instance when they took the horses from the owners one of the horses was a mare with a foal. The lady screamed that the foal couldn’t exist without her mother so the soldier just turned around and shot the foal then continued on. The Burning was referred to as a grim time in a very grim war. I was surprised to hear that the homes of widows and masons were not burned though.

The mill is three stories full of memorabilia from the Civil War until more recent times. In fact, it is a bit humbling to see items in a museum that I remember using in years past. Although I didn’t have high hopes for visiting the mill I was definitely wrong. I would surely recommend it to anyone that happens to be in the Edinburgh area.

Home Away From Home, Virginia

Montpelier

After a great night’s sleep I woke up to sounds in the kitchen. The temperature had dropped again and it was in the upper 30’s so I hated to get out of my warm bed but was curious as to what was happening in the kitchen. Yes, my sweet husband was making a new batch of sausage balls. We have gotten in the habit of having sausage balls for breakfast and nothing else seems to tempt us – well, Pam’s Diner in Raleigh did one day!

Since our only plan for the day was to visit Montpelier we took care of some housekeeping. While Jerry was baking sausage balls I was paying bills with intermittent Internet – yep, that is so frustrating but I finally got it done.

We left about 11:00 for Montpelier located in Orange, Virginia. According to the GPS it is only about 20 miles from where we are staying but nearly an hour’s drive. We found out why it takes so long as we wound around the curvy roads. We are not in the mountains per se but we are definitely not in the flatlands either.

Visiting with President and Mrs Madison!
Visiting with President and Mrs Madison!
Approaching James and Dollly Madson’s home affords an absolutely breathtaking view as it is situated at the top of a slight rise with an immense lawn in front. Later we finally got some pictures but it was difficult to get one without random people standing around as there was a constant flow.

We arrived just in time to see the introductory film and then join the house tour. The film told of his life and his ascent to the presidency. He was quite a learned, well-read man and used it to his advantage. He was a believer in freedom for all – well except for the 129 slaves he kept and he believed in freedom to worship as one pleased. Known as the Father of the Constitution and the Architect of the Bill of Rights, the notes that he took during the early discussions of the formation of the Constitution became known as the Federalist Papers.

James Madison appeared to be a quiet studious man who married a young widow with a two year son, Dolly Todd. Later known as the “First Lady” she was quite the entertainer. Not only did she constantly entertain during their 16 years in Washington, eight as Secretary of State and eight as President, when they returned to Montpelier she continued to entertain a constant stream of visitors in addition to helping Madison edit his papers. Unfortunately Dolly’s son seem to often end up in financial trouble as the years passed and he put Dolly in quite a financial bind. The home was sold and Dolly moved to Washington.

Our attempts at selfies continue to fail
Our attempts at selfies continue to fail
The home was actually sold a couple of times and ended up in the DuPont family. They made several renovations and changes to the original house but when it was later donated in 2000 archeologists began the continuing process of returning the home and grounds to what it was when the Madisons lived there at the end of his presidency.

The grounds are beautiful and we spent a fair amount of time walking around. A visit to their grave sites included the graves of other family members but most of the headstones were illegible.

As we entered the estate I noticed a riding course and jumps so when we were in the Visitors’ Center I asked about that. According to the last DuPont owner her will stipulated that the Montpelier Hunt would be held every year during the first weekend of November and it is still in existence today. I asked about tickets and they are only $15 with $20 for a parking pass, rather reasonable.

Montpelier
Montpelier

As we were leaving I asked Jerry which was his favorite, Mt. Vernon or Montpelier and he answered that if he were only going to visit one it would be Mt. Vernon simply because it was the home of our first president. Interestingly enough my original schedule called for a visit to Montpelier and if time provided a visit to Mt. Vernon as an extra. Glad it worked out as we have now seen the homes of four Virginia born presidents. The last two days we have heard a lot about government by the people, for the people, and of the people with representation. Wonder when it changed? When the media decided to slant the news instead of reporting the news that didn’t help. OK – off of my bandwagon now!

On the way back to the campground we stopped at a Walmart in Gordonsville and picked up some groceries and then headed on in. When we walked into the RV it was warm so we opened a couple of windows and used the screen door. It didn’t take long for it to cool off. I’m loving this crisp fall weather!

For dinner tonight I finally baked the other two pasties we got from Cousin Jenny’s in Traverse City, Michigan. I really like them and they are nice to have after a busy day of touring. A salad just completes the dinner for me.

In closing, if you ever get a chance to visit Montpelier be sure to go. One young lady there with her two children said she had driven three hours just to visit Montpelier and I’m sure she felt it was well worth the time invested.

Home Away From Home, Virginia

Mount Vernon

We decided not to set the clock for this morning but I was hoping we’d get on up and out by 8:00 since it’s a couple of hours drive to Mount Vernon. That didn’t happen! We finally got on the road about 9:45 and after a slight detour were on the way. It’s close to Washington DC so I told Jerry if there was anything he wanted to see in Washington now was the time.

For some reason the GPS didn’t work initially, just giving us our location. When we finally figured out that we didn’t know where we were heading we put the information in again and this time it worked but… it took us the long way. In fact it took us nearly three hours to get to Mt. Vernon. Fortunately we hit the traffic at a good time so we had no delays or slow/stop traffic.

We got to Mt. Vernon around 12:30 and upon arrival decided to view the introductory movie that highlighted what there is to see an do on the grounds and also showed scenes from the French and Indian War. It was very good and enlightening. Our time for the house tour was 1:20 but we were told since it was a light day it would be ok if we weren’t there at the appropriate time. I’m glad it was a light day because there were a lot of people there!

houseThe house sits right on the Potomac with an absolutely beautiful front porch view. I could just imagine George and Martha Washington sitting on that porch in their rocking chairs although from the sound of things there wasn’t a whole lot of sitting time. The rooms were recreated as they would have been when the Washingtons lived there and nearly every one of them had at least one piece of original furniture. Several of the rooms were painted with pretty vivid colors which was a sign of prosperity as paint was very expensive. It arrived in powder form and then was mixed with linseed oil. Any leftover was safely stored. There were lovely paintings all through the house, some of them original.

tombAfter the house tour we walked around the various out houses and viewed the gardens. We visited the tombs of both Martha and George Washington. General Washington as he preferred to be called was originally buried elsewhere on the property but it was near the shore line and was deteriorating. He had left instructions in his will for the mausoleum to be built and then their bodies were placed there. There are some other family members buried there as well.

On the walkway waiting to enter the house.  See the Potomac in the background.
On the walkway waiting to enter the house. See the Potomac in the background.
Our last stop was the museum and it was well worth the time spent there. It gave an overview of Washington’s life from birth to death. Some of the words that come to mind when I think of Gen. Washington are courageous, brave, humble, honest, leader, ingenious, hard working and devoted. After the war he resigned his commission and gave authority to the Congress. People wanted him to be king but he refused but later was selected as the first president. He served only two terms saying that no one needed to serve more than that. It was government by the people – can’t help but wish it was more that way now!

After the museum we were tired and hungry having missed lunch so we headed to the car. We discussed going to the grist mill and distillery but decided against it and that was a good thing because the Garmin took us right through a residential area and we never saw the grist mill that we had seen coming in. Unfortunately we were not as lucky with traffic in the afternoon as we were in the morning and it took FOREVER to get out of the Washington area. After looking at the route that Garmin gave us I put the information into MapQuest and discovered a different shorter way although the time didn’t differ much. Despite the fact that the distance is only about 90 miles the time is quite a bit due I guess to traffic. When we realized that we would be home too late to prepare dinner we stopped at a Hardee’s in Spotsylvania. I haven’t been to a Hardee’s in years and I don’t know if the food was really that good or I was that hungry but I wolfed it down! We had just a few items we needed to pick up from the grocery store and since there was a Food Lion right there we went on over and got most of what we needed. Apparently Monday evening is not the time to buy green grapes!

We finally arrived back at the campground around 8:00 and boy was it dark, not a light to be seen. Fortunately with the car lights and the lights on the ground by the RV we were able to see to get in. It didn’t take long for me to get ready for bed!

North Carolina, Virginia

Flexibility

Flexibility – some say that’s what RVing is all about and it surely has worked for us this time. Our original plans were to leave October 10th for our Virginia/Pennsylvania trip but Hurricane Matthew changed that plan. In all honesty we probably could have gotten out of Kinston but we just didn’t feel that it was a wise decision. As many have heard Kinston, NC was devastated by flooding waters and though “the storm” was over by the 9th the rising waters were just beginning. With Mom in a retirement center in Greenville and the threat of evacuation for her plus not knowing what was going to happen in Kinston we elected to stay home. We did go out to the warehouse on the 9th and get the motor home. The warehouse is in the flood zone and we were afraid it might flood. We also knew that even if the warehouse itself didn’t flood that there would be water all around it and we would be unable to get to it. Unfortunately we’ve seen it before so we knew what to expect. So, the RV stayed in our driveway for a week. We did use it one day due to power outage. Fortunately we live on the north side of Kinston and were not in any danger from the flood.

We were planning to go to the State Fair horse the next week and after a lot of talking pros and cons we decided to add part of our planned trip on after the horse show rather than before. We left on Tuesday, October 18 for Raleigh for the show and stayed until Sunday. During that time we discussed where we would go knowing we had to be back in Raleigh by October 29 for the State-Boston College football game. Yes, it does seem our fall travels revolve around football games and horse shows! We finally decided to go to Louisa, Virginia where we would spend two nights at the Small Country Campground and visit Montpelier, James Madison’s home. The rest of the trip was up in the air at that point but included going to the Shenandoah Valley and the Skyline Parkway.

We finally got away from the horse show grounds on Sunday around 10:00, stopped at Alamance Crossing to meet David (we had grandson Eli for the week-end) and then headed on to Louisa. On the way it dawned on me that I should probably check the hours for Montpelier. That little tickle in my mind was right – they are closed on Mondays. Oh well. We decided that we would add a night to our Louisa stay and go visit Mt. Vernon, George Washington’s home on Monday. It is about a 2 hour drive but Jerry was up for it so the plans changed.

As we neared the campground our two GPS’s of course gave two different routes. Jerry took his instead of mine and we ended up on Brickhouse Road, a narrow, two lane, winding road and we were hoping we wouldn’t meet anyone. We did but fortunately got by without incidence! We should have taken my route this time.

The campground despite its name is not small. In fact there are several sections. Unfortunately for some reason we were not put in with the transients so thus far haven’t gotten to meet anyone. After we got set up we took a walk around the park. We debated riding our bikes – wow, glad we didn’t as it’s a mite hilly!

I had put ribs in the crockpot when we stopped for lunch and they were smelling really good so I cooked some sides and we had a pretty good dinner for a change. It was an early night and by 8:00 we were both fighting sleep. The horse shows are always fun but tiring so a good night’s sleep was in order. By the way we didn’t succumb to our 8:00 drowsiness and I made it all the way to 10:00! I left my window open and the room was cool, perfect for sleeping.

North Carolina

Matthew Didn’t Go Away!

What a roller coaster of a week. As we anxiously watched every news outlet regarding Hurricane Matthew we finally realized no one knew exactly what course the storm might take. We finally heard that it was downgraded to a Cat 1 and would be turning and just skirting the coast of North Carolina. With that in mind we took off Saturday morning in a light drizzle to see the North Carolina State vs Notre Dame game in Raleigh, about an hour and a half from home. It was the 50th anniversary of the first game played in Carter-Finley Stadium so it was a pretty big deal. As we traveled the highway we saw several cars in ditches along the side of the road and assumed they were just not driving as carefully as they should. Who knows? We ran into occasional heavy rain but then it would let up.

As usual we met my cousin Becky and her husband Billy at a local mall so we could ride together to the game. Although we always tailgate we decided this week to just go out for breakfast instead. If you are ever in the area of the NC State Fairgrounds or the Jim Hunt Horse Complex in Raleigh be sure to stop by Pam’s Diner for breakfast. It is absolutely the best. There was a waiting line but it was so worth the wait and the cost for two delicious breakfasts was only $17.

By this time it was raining heavily so we put on our rain suits and headed to the stadium. I know – it was crazy but it wasn’t the craziest thing I did that day! As we sat in the pouring down rain and watched two teams slip, slide, fumble and fall I wondered if I had lost my mind but knew I was getting one of the “best wives of the day” award! Fortunately State won – how sad it would have been to sit there for four hours – oh yeah, the game was delayed at half time for lightning 10 miles away – and lose!

After the game we stripped off our soaking wet suits, got in the car and headed back to the mall to get our car. All I wanted was a cup of hot coffee. Billy knew right where a Starbucks was located very close to our car so that was the first destination. How disappointed and surprised we were when we saw the sign saying they were closed due to the storm. How bad was the storm? Then we realized the mall was closed and it was 4:00 on a Saturday afternoon! That should have told given us a clue as to what was ahead.

Jerry and I hopped in the car and slowly started home. I won’t go into the nitty gritty details of our trip home but suffice it to say it was a treacherous drive. We were rerouted only once due to high water but there were many places that had standing water and we had no choice but to go through. When we finally got to Kinston every street we turned on was flooded and we were beginning to wonder if we could get to our home. Of course nothing was opened so there was nowhere to stop so we had no choice but to keep going. Obviously there was no power anywhere because the town was dark! We know we are not supposed to go through standing water but we plowed anxiously on taking turn after turn trying to avoid the high, rising, rushing waters. Short of knocking on a stranger’s door and asking to spend the night we had little choice. Finally we saw the house in the distance and knew that although it would be most uncomfortable to say the least we could walk home in the driving rain if we had to. Pulling in my driveway was a wonderful feeling and an answer to our prayers.

I woke up Sunday morning, got my usual cup of coffee and stumbled to my chair in the den. Jerry looked at me after a few minutes and asked if I was awake. Well, no I wasn’t but I knew he was asking for a reason and that’s when he told me there was a tree on the house. I immediately got up and tried looking out of the window to see but it was so dark I couldn’t see anything. I’m still not sure how he knew! Fortunately it was a cedar tree from the neighbor’s and it didn’t do any damage. Other than debris in the yard, limbs, leaves, etc. we had no other damage.

Our next concern though was getting the motor home out of the warehouse where it is stored since the warehouse is located in the flood zone. We went out there but the road into the warehouse was knee deep in water and we knew we couldn’t drive the RV out. Eventually (hours later) we located a key for another door and we were able to drive through the warehouse instead of around it. Now the RV is home and if we lose power we can use it.

Next on the agenda was deciding about our trip. We quickly realized that we couldn’t leave Monday and with the threat of widespread flooding we recognized that we best cancel our trip. My first call was to Lehigh Gorge Campground and I explained that we had to cancel our reservation. As soon as I said we were from Eastern North Carolina he quickly said, “say no more” and he understood completely. Next I called Artillery Campground in Gettysburg and got the very same response. I don’t know when we will visit those campgrounds but we will for sure. I couldn’t have gotten a nicer response. My last call was to the Small Country Campground in Louisa, Va and while she was very understanding she could not refund our deposit but we do now have a credit there.

Monday morning we awoke to much cooler temperatures and I decided to get my daily bike ride in early. It was a very quiet morning, the calm after the storm I guess, and the only sounds I heard came from generators and sirens. A bit eerie to say the least.

Of course we are disappointed that our trip had to be canceled but we are so grateful that we are safe and warm. There are many who have lost their homes and all that they own plus at this point 14 lives have been lost in North Carolina due to Hurricane Matthew. We know that there is still more to come as the rivers fill and begin to overflow the banks. On day two we are already experiencing gas shortages and if the town gets landlocked like it did in Floyd the food supply will diminish. We have tried to prepare as best as we can. Although we lost power for about 12 hours yesterday it came back on just before dinner last night so our lives have barely been disrupted. A canceled trip is the least of our concerns and we both realize how very fortunate we are. Now it’s time to put the love of Christ in action. Both Jerry and I have called and put our names on the volunteer list so hopefully we’ll get called soon. In the meantime, stay safe folks and God Bless.

North Carolina

Go Away Hurricane Matthew!

Although we had an October trip planned to Bradenton, Florida for the Gathering with John and Kathy Huggins we decided that since we had just returned from Florida plus with Jerry’s broken ribs we’d forego the Gathering this year.  Instead we decided to take a short trip north through Louisa, Virginia to visit some presidential homes and then on to Gettysburg and Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.

Needless to say I have spent many hours planning this trip trying to find the best route, the best affordable campground – you know – the usual things.  We were also planning to go further north too but I just couldn’t find any place to stay.  That part of the country starts closing down on Columbus Day which this year is October 10, the day we are scheduled to leave.  Instead I decided to leave the Jim Thorpe area and go down through the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia so began looking for routes that would take us close to some pretty scenery with good hiking trails.  Although we will have our bikes I doubt we’ll do much riding in the mountains – if Jerry is able to ride at all!

The Calm Before the Storm
The Calm Before the Storm
Whoa – have you heard about Hurricane Matthew?  Well, we live on the coast in Eastern North Carolina so we are carefully watching the news for updates and it looks like our trip may, if not be canceled, at least be cut short.  Pennsylvania may have to wait for another time.

Stay tuned – I’ll let you know – and please pray for safety for those in the path of this Category 4 hurricane.